PWCBG co-founder Ralph Stephenson

Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Vice Chairman Wally Covington

(no response received from Covington)

23 March 2013

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Questions for Sup Covington: Stone Haven, Conflicts of Interest, Corruption
Date: Sat, 23 Mar 2013 08:42:06 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson <>
To: Covington, Wally <>
CC: BOCS, Prince William County <>, GT_Dan Roem <>, GT_Tara Slate Donaldson <>,,,,,,


Supervisor Covington:

A 13 Mar 2013 Washington Post article titled “Prince William moves forward on development in Linton Hall corridor” reports the following about the BOCS vote to initiate review of Stone Haven:   “About two dozen showed up Tuesday [12 Mar], largely to voice their support for the ‘blended’ approach that they had helped come up with: a mix of housing and employment centers, with a large open space in the middle for playing fields. The site would also include space for a high school, residents’ top concern…  A new plan could mean from 6,000 to 13,000 potential new jobs in retail and office space, and from 600 to 1,600 new housing units, county planners say. Those numbers could change as developers create a detailed plan.  With amenities such as space for a high school and open space for fields, area residents said that the project had more to offer than what’s envisioned in the county’s long-range Comprehensive Plan.  Covington said area residents’ support helped sway him to support the project this time around.”

I have the following questions for you and would appreciate a response as soon as possible:

  • If you really have been and are seeking broad-based community support, why was the meeting to initiate the Stone Haven CPA (Comprehensive Plan amendment) held at 2 pm on a Tuesday (12 Mar) when most people are at work?  And why were large numbers of area residents apparently not informed about the citizens’ meetings in prior months, while developers and their allies were all invited and extremely well represented?
  • Also, if Stone Haven really is to contain as few as 600-1600 new housing units, why so much hoopla, effort, and study?  In fact, do you need a rezoning at all, or is there already zoning for about that many houses in the immediate or surrounding areas?  Or do you and the developers, in reality, plan to make this development many times larger than that — once “developers create a detailed plan,” per the article above.  Perhaps closer to the size of the original Brentswood plan — 6,800 homes — than 600-1600?
  • In 2005-06, you were at multiple events at which Brookfield Homes advocated its infamous and ultimately unsuccessful Brentswood proposal, of which Stone Haven is the sequel (same place, high-density, certain to worsen traffic congestion and school overcrowding).  Yet you never found time to show up at any of the events opposing Brentswood, including some organized by your own county Republican Party, and you repeatedly defended Brentswood, to the point of appearing to be a shill for it and Brookfield Homes.  With that history, your consistently pro-developer voting record (see, the thousands of dollars you’ve received from residential developers, and the fact that you are yourself a big landowner with lots of big landowner friends, why would anyone who knows anything about you believe that “area residents’ support helped sway [you] to support the project [Stone Haven] this time around,” and not just that you’re shilling for the developers yet again — this time for Stone Haven?   Isn’t it intentionally deceptive for you to even suggest such a thing?
  • Have you mentioned to anyone that the high school that is being promised by you and Stone Haven’s developers will, in fact, be empty land, and cost taxpayers over $100M?  Have you mentioned to anyone that if you weren’t pushing development of so many new homes in the area, existing schools wouldn’t be so overcrowded and we wouldn’t need another high school right now?  Have you mentioned to anyone that after Stone Haven is built we’ll need another high school in addition to that one?  In sum, isn’t it true that you’re one of the main causes of the problem that you’re offering to solve, all the while slipping in more and more new homes for your housing developer friends?  Isn’t that a bit disingenuous?  Sounds to me a bit like former U.S. House banking committee Chairman Barney Frank offering banking and housing reforms — after the fact — to prevent the  Great Recession that he, in no small part, helped cause.

I have some additional questions for you about your own serious conflicts of interest on land use issues.  But first please click on the links below for some context.

Covington expresses concern at increasing “pressure” on Vint Hill Road, blames Fauquier County, hints at “four-laning” Vint Hill Road, without mentioning  his own property interests there
(“Official: Vint Hill lights may hinder traffic” by Dan Roem, The Gainesville Times, 2 September 2010,  pp. A1, A5)

  • Do you deny that you’re a big landowner with lots of big landowner friends and that your avid support for many years while a member of the Board of Supervisors of housing developer interests has made you rich and is likely to make you even richer, both in terms of personal wealth and political campaign contributions from developers?
  • Do you believe that you should be making decisions on behalf of hundreds of thousands of PW County citizens in which your judgement could easily be clouded and corrupted by said conflicts of interest?   Wouldn’t good government practice and sound ethical judgement require that you recuse yourself from any decisions that could directly or indirectly financially benefit you personally?  Isn’t to do otherwise in fact encouraging corruption in local government?
  • As in the 13 March Washington Post article above, you frequently say that your avid pro-housing developer policies and voting record are just reflections of the interests of your constituents, and that they “sway” you to support such policies.  But isn’t that, in fact, an acknowledgement that you represent only big landowners, developers, those directly or indirectly tied to housing developers, and/or those expecting special favors from developers and that you ignore or marginalize all the rest of your constituents?  (I personally know hundreds of your constituents in Brentsville District who strongly oppose your pro-housing developer policies, and only a handful who support them.)
  • Building unneeded homes just because developers want them cannibalizes older neighborhoods and their property values and prematurely ages them, leads to indirect taxpayer subsidies of these unneeded and harmful new developments, and most importantly of all causes severe school overcrowding and traffic congestion.  Taxpayers, not developers, pay for the police, fire, water, sewer, roads, schools, and other government infrastructure and services that must support such new developments.  Since you frequently claim to be fiscally conservative, why do you continually support unneeded and harmful taxpayer-subsidized housing, while ensuring that developer proffers to PW county are among the lowest in Northern Virginia?

Note:  For other conflict-of-interest information on yourself, please click on the following links:  Wally Covington   |  conflicts of interest

I will publish your response, or failure to respond to these questions within two weeks at and further publicize the info beyond that, as appropriate.  Thanks.

Yours truly,

Ralph Stephenson
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth